Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Is there no bright reversion in the sky,
For those who greatly think, or bravely die?

Alexander Pope

S North
Both ♠ K J
 A Q J 5
 A J 9
♣ Q 6 3 2
West East
♠ Q 4 3
 K Q 8 6 3 2
♣ J 10 8
♠ 10 8 7 2
 K 10 9 7 3
 10 7 5
♣ 4
♠ A 9 6 5
 8 4 2
♣ A K 9 7 5
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 1 Pass
2 Pass 2 NT* Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♣ Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 6 ♣ All pass



In the qualifying rounds of the NEC Trophy, Sartaj Hans of Australia had the opportunity for a nice play. He declared six clubs on the auction shown; this was an elegant sequence to get back to clubs after initially agreeing hearts.

After a top diamond lead, Hans won and drew trumps at once, seeing East discard a diamond and a heart, then took the heart finesse. When it lost and a heart came back, the bad break there came to light. Now the key issue was whether to play East or West for four spades. In a sense, the location of the spade queen was irrelevant to declarer’s play.

If West was the player with four spades, South could simply cash the remaining heart winners and ruff a heart to reach a five-card ending. If West held only three spades, they would ruff out. If he came down to the bare diamond king, declarer would cross to the spade king and ruff out that suit instead.

However, Hans decided that East’s failure to raise diamonds at his first turn suggested that he had only three diamonds. So West had six diamonds, three clubs and one heart, and thus only three spades.

Accordingly, it was East who was going to be the victim of a squeeze. Declarer won the second heart, played three rounds of spades ruffing in dummy, and trumped a second diamond in hand. At this point, he led the last club from hand and caught East in a simple major-suit squeeze. Contract made.

There are two issues to consider here: First, is your hand worth a two-heart bid? Maybe, but you don’t want your partner to get carried away; he might play you for considerably more if you act now. Second, will you get a chance to bid again if you pass? The answer is surely yes; the opponents are not likely to get beyond two diamonds before your next turn to call. So pass now and back in next time.


♠ 10 8 7 2
 K 10 9 7 3
 10 7 5
♣ 4
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 1 ♠

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 1st, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Hi Dear Mr.Wolff
Declarer played well. But I request you to reflect whether east would be justified to raise diamonds in vulnerable position with just three points. Actually east could have put south to test by leading a diamond when in with Heart K. Now south is forced to ruff and loses a vital tempo. Even if he decides west has four spades, the squeeze on west does not operate for as south will be in dummy when he finds about the bad break in hearts and will be in dummy when he cashes the hearts. My point is South would have gone down if west unexpectedly turned up with four spades ( But he would succeed as the cards lay)and If south trusts that west will not make overcalls even with a six card suit in vulnerable position with less than seven points, he had a certain winning line. Simply play west for Q of spades. So whether east returns a diamond or a heart it does not matter. If it is a heart, win in dummy, ruff a diamond, take spade finesse , cash K of spades and come to hand with another diamond ruff and discard dummy’s losing heart on A of spades. And if east returns a diamond, south ruffs and takes spade finesse.
But again , It is a matter of Judgment

Michael BeyroutiMarch 1st, 2018 at 3:38 pm

That capital j… surely a Freudian slip…

jim2March 1st, 2018 at 3:56 pm

At last year’s Slush Cup, I sat East and, though pard did insert a one diamond overcall, had to sit through some sort of auction like the one in the text. When it finally subsided, N-S were at six clubs, though I doubt either of them knew how they got there.

Declarer could never have pulled off a squeeze even if handed a tube of toothpaste.

Instead, he reasoned that pard’s simple overcall meant he had one or both high cards above a jack outside his suit. Hence, he simply drew trump and took both major suit finesses. Sometimes bridge is an easy game.

Bobby WolffMarch 1st, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Hi AVRR, Michael, & Jim2,

Since AVRR took time to give a reasonably complete analysis concluding with Judgement with both a capital J and an alternate middle e to which Michael likely and correctly alluded to as Freudian (that in itself is judgmental but, no doubt, likely, right on) and Jim2 then and again giving a plug for his favorite bridge tournament, the Slush Cup, we are now on the way to discuss what should be the winning guess, not only on this hand, but what should be the more important considerations on similar layouts.

From a learning view, (to me and by many lengths the more important) not from the above three who responded, who have all earned their spurs right here in River City, but to the unwashed anonymous others who possibly and hopefully check in with this site, but stealthily remain silent.

All aspiring players need to do three chores on every bridge hand that they will participate in, while declaring or defending (dummy getting a pass) and those three are (drum roll): Counting, counting, and more counting.

Then, that having been done, rather than fret about where a stray queen may be located, think instead, if possible, to what this particular partnership or sometimes only individual players are likely to do, e.g. many younger and modern day players will almost always, particularly at low levels raise (single or jump), with 4 trumps (here East in diamonds) and when he or she did not, was there a tempo break (even a slight hitch) or rather instead a simple pass without the slightest fanfare?

Therefore, whether West would have overcalled diamonds with or without the queen of spades is difficult to determine, but while being vulnerable the safety of a six card suit, at least to a vast majority, will rule the judgment day.

Being able to zero in on what to determine is not a born talent, only one developed by experience, but unless the opponents are brand new to the game, in which case, almost all would never consider bidding vulnerable with only 5 or 7 hcps and therefore (at least on this hand) subject the declarer to a lesser degree of evidence, ironically making the hand harder to make, unless a clever declarer can “feel” which holding is more likely.

Caution: The above advice is far from foolproof, but as Damon Runyon, a well known American poet and sports fan once said, “That is the way to bet”.

Thanks to all three of you for reading this far, even if it was only just skimming. And, yes bridge can be an easy game, but in order to feel good enough to say so, will usually rest solely on one’s results.

jim2March 1st, 2018 at 6:12 pm

I argue not, but do want to point out that the Slush Cup declarer would go down only if the overcaller lacked not “a stray queen” but BOTH the QS AND the KH, along with West not raising with BOTH of those same cards.

Iain ClimieMarch 1st, 2018 at 6:16 pm

HI Folks,

What happens if West judges to lead his heart instead of the DK? I suspect South has to rely on the spade finesse and it is his lucky day. Suppose though that he wins HA, draws trumps and plays a heart which East ducks (winning the K and playing a heart back might also be OK). Now what on a single-dummy basis?



BobliptonMarch 1st, 2018 at 7:48 pm

True enough about what Runyon once said. On another occasion, he wrote “Son, some day a man is going to offer to bet you that he can make the Jack of Spades jump out of a deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. Don’t take your bet, for son, if you do, you’ll wind up with an earful of cider.”

Although I don’t think it was cider he was writing about.


Bobby WolffMarch 1st, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Hi Jim2 (friend of Lena),

Yes, I am guilty of overlooking the mention of the king of hearts in the determination of whether or not to take the simple spade finesse or not.

However, instead of possessing the queen of spades, I suppose if West held s. void, h. x, d. KQJ1098765432, c. void she still might be reluctant to overcall in diamonds. Surely most middling+ players, certainly including Carol Channing, would find a way to, at the very least, show off her best friend(s).

Bobby WolffMarch 1st, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Hi Iain,

I think that eventuality would force declarer to take the winning spade finesse, leaving the defense frustrated by what appears to be an on the surface, more effective, opening lead forcing declarer to rely on a less effective, but successful percentage attempt at scoring up the contract.

However, some declarers may opt to take the immediate losing option of a heart finesse at trick one rather than to fall for what declarer may think is a very sneaky LHO trying to upset the apple cart or should I say giving declarer a “heart attack”.

Bobby WolffMarch 1st, 2018 at 8:19 pm

Hi Bob,

No, probably not, but I think that line was also used in the great long ago play, (very few now reading were born yet), “Guys and Dolls”.

However, at least to me, bridge is a game which often puts that advice to good use.